Private 17818 Harry Cartwright

Killed in Action Mesopotamia on Thursday, 13th January 1916, age 33.
Commemorated on Panel 12 of Basra Memorial, Basra, Iraq.

2nd Bn., Leicestershire Regiment. Gharwal Brigade of 7th (Meerut) Division.

Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 4th October 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1656085/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
7 Walton Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Cartwright (52, Puddler, born Tipton), his wife Caroline (52, born Tipton), and their 4 children: William (24, Coal Miner - Loader, born Tipton), Henry (19, Coal Miner - Loader, born Tipton), Lily (14, born Tipton), and Mary Ann (12, Scholar, born Tipton).

Marriage of Henry Cartwright and Mary Ann Burton registered December quarter 1905 in Dudley.

4 Court 1 House, Union Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Harry Cartwright (28, Miner - Loader Underground, born Tipton), his wife Mary Ann (26, born Tipton), and their 3 children : Henry (5, School, born Tipton), Mary (3, born Tipton), and William (1, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Harry Cartwright enlisted during 1915 and, after training, landed in France on 4th October 1915. He joined the 2nd Leicesters just in time for their move to Mesopotamia, and just over 3 months later he was killed in action.

After Harry's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £2/3/7d (2 pounds, 3 shillings, and 7 pence); this was paid to his widow, Mary Ann, in December 1916. His War Gratuity was £3/0/0d (3 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his widow in October 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Harry had enlisted within the 12 months prior to his death.

Action resulting in his death

The 2nd Leicesters arrived in Basra (in Mesopotamia, now Iraq) on 8th December 1915 and were thrown into the attempts to relieve the Siege of Kut, where 25,000 Allied troops were surrounded by Turkish troops. The Leicester's first clash was on 6th / 7th January at the unsuccessful Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad, with the Leicesters having 63 men killed (from a total of 4,200 Allied casualties). Later the Turks voluntarily withdrew to the Wadi River where the Allies planned their next assault on the 13th January.

The attack at Wadi River was delayed by morning mist, and by the time of the attack in the afternoon, all element of surprise had been lost. The Turks had a numerical advantage, and their small arms and machine gun fire halted the Allied advance. By dusk it was obvious that the attack had failed, and the troops were withdrawn.

On this day, 13th January 1916, the 2nd Leicesters had 2 Officers and 51 Other Ranks killed, including Private Harry Cartwright. Like the vast majority of these men, Harry has no known grave and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.

Further battles took place to relieve the troops at Kut, but all were unsuccessful and in April 1916 General Townshend was forced to surrender at Kut, with 10,000 men being taken prisoner and subsequently badly treated.

For those requiring more detail there follows an abridged extract from the 2nd Leicesters War Diary of the 13th January 1916:

"Patrols sent out at daybreak reported small parties of enemy in the direction of the WADI RIVER. It was believed that the enemy were holding an advanced entrenched position with their left on the Fort.

Orders were issued to drive back the enemy from the forward position and take up a line 800 yards or so beyond it to enable our artillery to shell the main position on the WADI RIVER. This was carried out without encountering any opposition and the Battalion dug themselves in.

At 3.30pm the Battalion resumed the advance with orders to attack and occupy enemy’s main position along the WADI RIVER. Enemy opened fire at about 1100 yards range. The line continued steadily to advance until within 450 yards of the enemy. Here a heavy fire was kept up on the enemy’s trenches which could now be seen extending along the whole length of the WADI. Ammunition was brought up and the Battalion prepared for the assault.

At about 4.50pm the right flank of the Battalion became subjected to enfilade machine gun and rifle fire. The assault was not carried out and the Battalion dug themselves in with both flanks thrown back. About this time the Battalion had suffered a loss of 4 officers (all wounded) and 197 other ranks.

As darkness set in the enemy’s fire developed into desultory sniping with occasional bursts of fire along different parts of the line. At about 11.00pm verbal orders arrived for the Battalion to withdraw, with a view to our artillery preparation being carried out the next morning. This withdrawal was carried out with no casualties."

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Gazette April 22nd 1916
Private Harry Cartwright, of the Worcestershire Regiment, who lived at 56 Waterloo Street, Tipton, has died of wounds received in action. He formerly worked at Bloomfield Smithies, and has been on foreign service since October. He leaves a wife and four children.